I’ve been glad to say I’ve been following Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats (hereafter to be abbreviated to Uncle Acid; no disrespect to The Deadbeats, but it’s quite a long band name) since the early days. I won’t pretend to own one of the original 25 CD-Rs of ‘Volume 1’, and like most folks until I purchased the recently released remaster, I was playing a somewhat unofficial version found through an online search. As such, it’s fair to say that over the years I’ve noticed what is often called a “Marmite” reaction to the band, namely you either love it or hate it, and very few folks seem to think that it’s “just fine.” Well, let me nail my flag firmly to the mast, and say, like Ghost, I bloody love Uncle Acid, and am more than happy to lay my hands on their new album.
So, is it some radical departure from the albums of yore, with Uncle Acid main man Kevin Starrs exploring previously unvisited musical avenues? Nope, it is not. Instead ‘Wasteland’ is another fuzz heavy slab of his trademark crime and occult obsessed stoner rock. ‘I See Through You’ launches the album with all the required Uncle Acid signature sounds in place: the guitar work is solid and catchy; the rhythm section powers through without being obtrusive; hints of keyboards drift through the music like the smoke from a doobie swifty hidden from view at the approach of a copper; and Mr Starrs’ voice is high pitched and hypnotic as ever as he delivers his lyrics of mystery and evil. What more could a fan of the band want? Not much, I can tell you. More hard rock aesthetics are added to the mix with the Zeppelinesque chugging riff of ‘Shockwave City’ that had me wanting to scream “A Whole Lot Of Love” at the top of my lungs, something I only just managed not to do. Indeed, the multi-layered sound of the album does harken back to the Jimmy Page “wall of guitars”; hey, if you’re going to take your influences from somewhere, why not one of the greats? I’m sure that axe-lord of yesteryear would get a buzz from knowing that his legacy of mixing the musical with the occult is in safe and capable hands.
Things get darker with the acid creep of ‘No Return’, a slow stepping and slow burning behemoth of a track that cries to be played live in a dark club lit up only by a psychedelic sixties light show, and having seen the band live a good few times, I think that may well be on the cards. It is a number that is laden with a hidden menace, all the scarier by being hinted at in the background rather than slammed in your face with screams, spitting blood, and faux Satanism. It is the terror of a seventies horror movie that relies on atmosphere rather than the torture porn and blasting jump cut scares of modern cinema. Not all is a gradual approach in the Uncle Acid camp, and ‘Blood Runner’ is a sprint from the start, thunderous hooks designed with a near clinical precision to have even the most static of feet stomping and fixed of heads banging along to the beats, whilst the guitar solo enters the realms of shape throwing heroics. By contrast ‘Stranger Tonight’ chugs along with an almost punk sneer and fury to the instruments, a sound that is more than appropriate for what is the shortest track on ‘Wasteland’, Uncle Acid showing that not everything needs to be a drawn out trip, and they are as capable of getting down and dirty as any of their peers.
Mysterious remains the name of the game for title track ‘Wasteland’, a bleak acoustic guitar opening accompanying the melancholic cries of Mr Starrs for the first half of the track before piece by piece, element by element, the whole grows into a howling mix of screaming guitars, feedback, and vocals that fade into and through the whole sound; I’ve no idea how it would work live, but as an experience sat down and just having it wash over me, it was a fine display of the skills that went into the album.
Whether ‘Wasteland’ will see Uncle Acid opening up to a new audience is hard for me to read, especially since I cannot claim in any way to have my finger on the pulse of popular tastes. However, to an established fan it delivers everything you could possibly want, being simultaneously familiar whilst incorporating a maturing multi-faceted approach that hints at moving away from, or at the very least evolving the lo-fi approach of the band. What I can say is that I look forward to hearing the new music delivered live, and since the day of the announcement of the 2019 show in Glasgow with Blood Ceremony I’ve been the happy holder of a pair of tickets, and if there is any musical justice in the world, it should be a tour that sells out.